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The fairway to top skills for golf hopefuls

The sport of golf is helping countless boys and girls to create meaningful careers for themselves - outside golf - thanks to the support they have received from the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), which celebrated its 20th anniversary in December 2019.

Among two of the most recent are Crystal Beukes, 19, and her brother Riaan. Crystal is now at the University of Stellenbosch studying medicine and hopes to become a doctor. Riaan is studying to become a teacher.

From the age of eight Crystal benefited from the help of the SAGDB, which receives support from the Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation. She recalls: "My brother Riaan played in junior events and I would tag along with my parents. One day I thought I may as well start playing myself. I began to receive lessons from the SAGDB and by nine I was competing."

Among her career highlights was travelling to Cypress Lakes, Australia to compete in the Jack Newton International Junior Classic.

SAGDB was created to use golf as the vehicle for change in disadvantaged communities. It now has a nationwide footprint and the support of all 14 South African golf unions. Its extensive network of managers, coaches and passionate volunteers reaches into some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. It currently coaches 2,600 children weekly.

Beyond producing better golfers, the SAGDB's greater impact has been the role it has played in redefining what true sports transformation means. It's an impact that quietly works itself out over lifetimes.

"To have been part of the SAGDB has made a big difference in Crystal's life. She's learned to be independent, how to get along with people of different backgrounds, and it's just made her a stronger person. The SAGDB is incredible, and they support the children 100 per cent," says Crystal and Riaan's mother Lorna.

Grant Hepburn, CEO of GolfRSA and the SAGDB, says: "If we manage to produce a professional golfer, then that is certainly an achievement. But it's more important for us to develop these children as people, and golf is the perfect facilitator for that.

"SAGDB was founded by our patron Johann Rupert, whose vision was to create a grassroots programme to build the nations' golf skills, to grow the sport and to eventually produce champion golfers from all walks of life.

"Through the dedication of our staff, the backing of our sponsors and the unwavering support of South Africa's 14 golf unions, more than 30 000 players have come through the programme in the last 20 years. We have a dedicated group of managers and a wonderful group of coaches and their boundless energy and amazing passion is the driving force behind the SAGDB," added Grant.